Mayor Bill de Blasio and fellow officials will introduce legislation next week that would rid New York City of the horse-drawn carriage industry, The New York Times reports. The decision comes as a result of the mayor’s pledge to animal-rights activists during his campaign last year when he vowed to eliminate the controversial tourist attraction.
Upon entering office, De Blasio promised to rid Central Park of its signature four-legged attraction, a Victorian remnant that has been condemned as abusive by activists who say the animals are mistreated and vulnerable to accidents when crossing Midtown streets. Soon after beginning the process, the mayor’s efforts readily turned into public scrutiny. Progress became hindered for months by union blue-collar protests, legal snags, and celebrity retorts, including Liam Neeson.
In spite of others’ efforts to derail the legal process, de Blasio and team are ready to unveil the bill that sets to diminish the industry by mid-2016. Those who are left unemployed by the phase out will be offered training classes and a waiver of most fees for licenses to operate “green” taxicabs, which can pick up passengers outside the busiest parts of Manhattan.
Along with Central Park, the legislation will also prohibit the use of horse-drawn carriages throughout the rest of the city. The only exceptions allowed will be for film sets and some parades.
“This is the right creative solution that benefits all New Yorkers by adding jobs while also ending an unsafe and inhumane industry,” said Allie Feldman, the executive director of NYClass, a group of animal-rights activists who endorsed de Blasio in last year’s mayoral race.
Unsurprisingly, those that work in the industry aren’t too thrilled.
“This is awful news to give a working family just before the holidays,” said George Miranda, president of the Teamsters local that represents the Central Park carriage drivers.
Carriage horses in Central Park have remained a Manhattan fixture for more than a century and are extremely popular with the public. The New Yorker satirized the mayor’s attempts to prohibit the carriage industry on its cover, while The Daily News embarked on a campaign to “Save Our Horses!”
Still, de Blasio is reigning in on his power and embracing the equine.
“We think it’s time to end horse carriages in the city,” he said, “and we’re going to act on it.”
The bill will first have to pass City Council, with a vote expected for 2015.